A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Friday, 13 May 2011

The Great Plan

The timing to do the Loop is quite specific. If you look at the map on the previous post, you do the green bits in the spring, the orange bits in the summer and the purple bits during autumn (fall) and winter. Constraints are: the Great Lakes freeze in winter and thaw in spring which floods the rivers so you don’t want to be up there either of those times. The Hurricane season is from July to December 1st so you don’t want to be in the Gulf of Mexico or Florida then. The time you start is generally governed by where you start from, but because of these constraints, Loopers are usually travelling “loosely together”, so they apparently tend to meet up a lot.

Therefore our plan is as follows:

Next year, around June(ish), we will buy a boat somewhere around the Great Lakes area, which will probably mean a special trip to the USA and back specifically for the purpose. I favour buying in the Lakes area is because I would prefer a freshwater use boat and that is also where you start the Loop at that time of year. The boat we are looking for will be twin cabin with ensuite in each, separated by the saloon (salon in the USA). It will have twin engines for redundancy, preferably Cummins (despite what has happened with Kindred Spirit’s Cummins VT555 I still like the Cummins B series) and a layout that has stairs, not ladders as the first mate isn’t keen on them any more. And I have been instructed that she wants something newer and a "bit posh". We are presently looking at Meridian 459’s (surprise, surprise) and Carver 444CMY’s that fit the bill. If you want, check them out on www.yachtworld.com, but this what a Meridian 459 looks like and the Carver 444 is remarkably similar: 

And inside


 VIP (guest) stateroom:

Master stateroom: 

Salon entertainment centre: 



Yes, even a washing machine/dryer: 

Sundeck and Wet Bar: 

Sundeck seating

Engine room: 

Doesn’t that all sound sooooo easy ……… It isn’t!!!!

We would then go over again to pick up the boat and have a couple of weeks shakedown cruising to get used to her and provision her up for the trip. We plan to leave Chicago in August, heading down the Illinois river to St Louis before joining the Ohio and Cumberland rivers and into the Tenn-Tom (Tennessee/Tombigbee) Waterway to MobileAlabama. Remember we are not supposed to get to the Gulf of Mexico before 1st December as it is the Hurricane season and you can’t get insurance. We will then cruise the ICW to Florida and cross the Gulf (the only stretch of unenclosed water) to Tarpon Springs (180-odd miles) then down the Florida Coast to the Okeechobee Waterway which crosses Florida about two thirds of the way down. We will then put the boat on the hard at a place called Indiantown and fly home for Christmas. This will give us an idea of whether we like the boat and the lifestyle.

Assuming we do, we will return to Florida in March 2013 and resume our adventure, cruising the ICW up the coasts of FloridaGeorgia, South and North CarolinaVirginia, across the Chesapeake to Maryland and New Jersey and into New York. Then up the Hudson and into the Eerie Canal system to Oswego on Lake Ontario. Across into Canada, then up the St Lawrence seaway to Montreal and back down to Lake Ontario via Ottawa and the Rideau Canal system. We originally planned to go from New York straight up to Montreal via the Champlain and Richelieu Canal system, but if we buy a Meridian or Carver, we will be too tall to go under one of the bridges, so we have to go the long way round.
From there we cross through to Georgian Bay, via the Trent-Severn Canal system, up Lake Huron to the North Channel and back into the USA via Lake Michigan down to Chicago. And here we will have completed the Loop, or “crossed our wake” as Loopers put it.
But that’s not all, because then we will go back down the river system to Mobile again (we were going to go down the Mississippi to New Orleans the second time, but everyone says that it is not a good idea – no fuel stops apparently). Then round Florida’s “Panhandle” to Carabelle and via “the big bend” across the Gulf of Mexico (only 60 miles of open water this way) and right down the Gulf coast of Florida to the Keys. Finally up the Atlantic coast of Florida to somewhere where we either sell the boat, ship it home, or leave it there for future visits. By this time it will be March 2014 and time to go home.

So, there you have it.

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