For six years I dreamed of the day I could write this post. And for the last six months I dreaded it. To “cross our wake” means that we have officially finished the Great Loop.
For those who may not know, to complete the Loop you must travel all the way around the Eastern United States by water. The direction, timeframe and exact mileage do not matter. It’s all about arriving back to the spot you started…hence the term, crossing your wake.
Every year about 100 boats complete the 5,500+ mile adventure. To put that in perspective, less people complete the Great Loop each year than climb Mount Everest.
While there’s no official prize for crossing your wake, you do get to change your white burgee to a gold one. And, there are pretty significant bragging rights once you’re a Gold Looper!
Since we purchased our boat in Brunswick, GA, that is where we began our Loop on June 1, 2020.
Admittedly, there were days along the way when I wondered if we would ever cross our wake. Between Covid, the Erie Canal, Canada, and lock closures- the first half of our Loop was anything but easy.
Additionally, Brent and I each had a day that we seriously considered quitting. Thankfully, it wasn’t the same day so we were able to encourage each other to keep going.
My day came just 3 weeks into our adventure. It rained for 2 weeks straight. Nothing about the trip matched my expectations. And our boat was in a popular Loop marina that I happened to really not like. The glamor of living on a boat had completely faded.
It probably would have been okay, except I needed to rent a car and take the kids to Charlotte (home) for a day for an orthodontist appointment. I remember calling Brent from Charlotte and telling him that I really didn’t want to come back to the boat. It was the hardest drive of my life!
Brent’s day came much later in the Loop. We had a very bad crossing from Key West to Marco Island. The forecast wasn’t great, but we needed to get our boat to Fort Myers. Boating on a schedule is never a good idea- and this is a perfect example. We were all seasick. The boat took a beating. And it was just all around a miserable day.
Fortunately, we spent several subsequent months in Southwest Florida and Brent eventually got past the bad day.
The kids are the ones who kept us focused on our goal of becoming Gold Loopers.
Nothing fazed them. Except for the idea of being done. At some point it hit all of us, we didn’t really want to finish. Why would anyone want the best adventure of their lives to be over?
Unfortunately, as I mentioned in a previous post, we had to get our boat out of Florida before the official start of hurricane season. Honestly, we would probably still be lingering just south of Brunswick- avoiding the finish line- if we didn’t have a family vacation planned in Hilton Head. The only way to get there was to cross our wake.
We spent our last night on the Loop at a state park dock just east of Jacksonville.
Admittedly, the mood was weird. What we thought would be one of the most exciting moments of our life turned into one that we were dreading. No one slept well. We left at first light.
Ironically, our last day was one of the most difficult. We never could have done it a year earlier! The tides were not in our favor that day, which left us navigating some very challenging water at low tide. Thankfully just before the worst part, a sailboat pulled out of a marina.
Another boat from the marina called the sailboat on the radio and they said they had recent tracks and felt confident navigating. Since they needed more water than we did, we decided to stay behind them for a few of the most challenging miles (even though we were going painfully slow.) It was a huge blessing on a day we didn’t want to ruin by grounding ourselves!
As the Sydney Lanier Bridge came into view on May 22, 2021, we officially crossed our wake.
The moment produced a landslide of emotions: gratitude, joy, excitement, a huge sense of accomplishment…but also, overwhelming feelings of loss. We set out to do the Great Loop and achieve our wildest dream. Simultaneously, we ended the greatest adventure of our life. It’s a strange head space to be in.
Fortunately, we had a lot to look forward to! My brother, Robby, and his family planned to join us for a pizza party that night. And the Stein Family surprised us by driving all the way from Fort Myers to celebrate our wake crossing. Having friends and family show up definitely changed the mood of our weekend!
Now…to address the million dollar question that everyone keeps asking: What’s next now that you’ve finished the Loop?
For so many years we dreamed and planned for the moment that we would cross our wake. Now we’re taking some time to plan out the next big adventure. We’ll share more details soon. But in the meantime, you may enjoy reading:
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