June 1st, 2020 is where our journey begins.
The beginning is one of my most favorite and least favorite places to be. It can be a little intimidating and even scary. But it’s full of anticipation and excitement too.
Our family’s goal is to complete America’s Great Loop. This kind of dream isn’t just about the end, it’s really about the adventure along the way.
I’ve gotten a lot of questions about The Great Loop. Let me tell you a little more about it and then I’ll dive into how we got started.
The Great Loop is a circumnavigation of the Eastern half of the United States. It involves traveling the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), New York canals, the Great Lakes, many inland river systems, and crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Most people do this in a counterclockwise direction (which is our plan too.)
There really isn’t a right or wrong way to do The Great Loop. Some people choose to travel quickly and complete it in months. Others take their time and spend years on The Great Loop. Some people do it continuously and others take breaks.
As you might imagine, the majority of people who do The Great Loop are retired, and not a lot have kids on board.
Here are a few more fun facts about America’s Great Loop:
- Less people complete The Great Loop each year than climb Mount Everest.
- Most Loopers average between 5,500 – 6,800 miles depending on which route you take and any side trips.
- The lowest fixed bridge on The Loop is just past Chicago and it’s 19.1 feet high. *Our boat is 16 feet with full fuel and water, plus several antennas that put us closer to 21 feet. We will need to take those antennas down to fit under that bridge!
- We will need to go through over 100 locks, including one that acts like a boat roller coaster, The Big Chute.
- The end goal is a full circle, returning to the same place you started. Or, in Great Loop lingo, “Crossing Your Wake.”
The story of our family’s journey around the Great Loop began when we left Brunswick Landing Marina on June 1st.
We left around lunch time with our “buddy boat”, Howaho. Jim and Kelly have become dear friends and we’re very excited to travel the Loop as much as possible with them. Their college-age kids, Cody and Halley, were also visiting for this leg of the journey.
Leaving Brunswick our first destination was Hilton Head Island, SC. However, we allowed two days to get there.
Similar to using Waze or Google Maps in a car, our boat is equipped with several navigation tools. We program our destination and essentially follow the navigational magenta line.
Boat navigating is weird though. While you might look at a huge body of water and think you can go anywhere, in reality you might actually have a very tiny course that you can take your boat on. The draft on our boat is about 4 feet (we say 5 to be safe!) It may not sound like much, but you always have to be mindful of the water depth.
In some cases, we have to make huge navigational detours to stay in deep enough water. Until we began our journey, I had NO idea!
Our boat is capable of going about 25 miles per hour. However, we’re planning to do most of the Loop at a cruising speed between 8-10. This allows us to enjoy the sights and gives us more reaction time with crab pots, shallow water, and other navigational obstacles.
As our journey begins, here’s a few questions we’ve gotten recently:
How long will it take you? When will you finish the Loop?
The simple answer to this question is that we have no idea. We’re working around Brent’s job commitments, Covid19 restrictions, and lock closures (just to name a few obstacles.) We could rush just to finish- which we’ve honestly considered- but we feel like we’d miss out on too many opportunities.
Do you stay in marinas every night?
So far we’ve spent all but two nights in marinas. For now, it’s what we prefer. My next post will cover our first time spending the night on anchor and all the challenges we faced.
When will you be in XXX? (Fill in the blank with any city.)
I have no idea.
Trust me when I say, it’s driving me crazy not having a set schedule that I can put on the calendar months in advance. There are days when I truly don’t know where we’ll be sleeping that night. And there are other days when we start with a plan, and completely change it.
There are SO many factors that go into traveling on a boat. Weather is a big one. But also, we have to consider tides, boat conditions, and so many other things. For example, we’ve already encountered some severe flooding on the South Carolina coast. For one whole day we had to drive at idle speed to minimize our wake for the flooded communities. Although we weren’t traveling very many miles, it still took hours longer than we planned due to the no wake restriction.
Stay tuned for our next post: The One Where We Anchor Out For The First Night. (Which I actually promised on my last post…but then I realized I’d gotten ahead of myself and I needed to write about how our journey begins.)
In the meantime, you may enjoy reading:
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