Prepping For The Loop


We often find it funny that while prepping for our first Loop we (actually, I should say “I,” because Jim usually travels pretty lightly) stocked the boat with what anyone would think was a two-year supply of dry and canned goods, office supplies, batteries, books, and so on. It was as if, along the rivers, ICW, and places in-between, there would be no grocery stores, WalMarts, Staples and bookstores. The availability of supplies and accessibility of transportation was a big unknown to us as we contemplated and prepared for the relative unknown. Now we know more.

Lisa whipping up something in the Galley

Another aspect of preparing to go cruising, about which we were unprepared, was how to take care of life’s daily chores such as managing bills, receiving mail, scheduling health exams and tests, along with asking for prescriptions, getting them filled, and talking with our doctors to avoid problems with existing, minor health conditions while away.

We made an assessment of what electronics and computer supplies we’d need in order to take, edit, and store all the photos we’d planned to take while on the trip. We also had to make arrangements to store our vehicles, arrange for insurance, and apply for absentee ballots for upcoming elections. Last but not least among our tasks was finding the right communications vehicle for keeping in touch with our sons, parents, and friends while we were away.

This time around, we won’t be weighing down the boat with storable food supplies quite as much as we did the last time. We’ll probably only stock up on a few luxury items, such as certain pastas and condiments that are hard to find, even under the best of circumstances, but that will keep well until needed. We’ll again have a few large Tupperware-type containers to store these items in our pantry-storage area below the galley.

Lisa’s tending her garden of herbs

We’ve found that while cruising, the day-to-day focus is pretty much on the basics to sustain life while traveling -- eating, cleaning, showering, laundry, boat cleaning, and maintenance. There are not the usual, multitudes of distractions that may make you hurry through some of life’s basic chores to get to that other stuff. So, we find that we take more time to savor these small, necessary tasks, and in turn our lives become simpler, smoother, more balanced.

Jim and I like to cook, and making interesting meals became a joy on our first Loop. Our present galley is well stocked with utensils, cookware, and supplies, and we like to see what we can creatively whip up with what we have available onboard. I’ve also, much to Jim’s dismay, potted a variety of herbs so that we always have fresh flavors for even the simplest of dishes. As much as we love cooking, we also enjoy visiting the local restaurants and a balance of the two is very satisfying to us.

Since we leave from the Great Lakes, we’ll hit the river system first. Last time around, we found that while stores were easier to get to than we’d originally thought, the selection of available goods was lacking once we were away from big towns. This was mostly due to having access to only small-town grocery stores near the marinas. We dearly missed the diversity of fresh produce and artesian breads that are readily available in northern Michigan and, because of this, in the river system, we started making our own bread. We’ll probably do this again while cruising the rivers south.

Lisa’s first attempt at baking bread on the boat

In the Abacos we heard before we went that you should try to stock up on most food items and paper goods before departing for the islands. Produce, dairy, meat, and canned goods found in the little grocery stores that dot the islands are very expensive, and these shops have a minimal selection. They also charge for water so many people have watermakers or extra containers for storage. We didn’t and won’t on this trip. We figure that we can purchase a lot of water for the cost of a watermaker. But we will turn our extra plug-in cooler into a freezer, bring as much frozen food as possible, and fill in with the local lobster, which is a real bargain in the islands.

During our last few weeks here in Michigan, before we take off on our second Great Loop, we still have a few medical appointments scheduled and will get plenty of prescriptions for refills on the few medications we take.

We sold one of our vehicles and only kept our trusty Ford pickup truck, which one of our boys will bring out to us when we spend next summer in the Annapolis, Maryland, area. So we don’t have to store or insure two vehicles this time.

Sometimes it was hard to retrieve carefully stored items in small cubby holes

We sold our house before our first Loop and still haven’t acquired another one so we’re free and clear of those kinds of preparations. Last time around, we made an arrangement with an acquaintance at our local Post Office to forward our mail when we faxed to him a location where we’d be for a week or more. This time Jim is going to check into one of those mail services. We’ll see how that works and let you know. On our first trip we started paying bills online, and plan to pay most of our bills this way in the future. It’s so easy.

For our first trip we bought a large 17-inch Apple Powerbook laptop computer and loaded all the software we thought we’d need to continue working on our websites, blogs, and photography while away. We bought extra batteries and several cards to store photos until we could offload them onto the computer. Because the laptop was short on storage space we invested in several extra hard drives to store and back up the laptop on a regular basis.

This time around we also bought a 20-inch iMac because we plan to work some while traveling, and started using a Verizon USB modem card that would work in both the laptop and the iMac. On our first Loop, we got by with available Wi-Fi along the way, and while it worked out surprisingly well most of the time, sometimes it was a real pain.

Lisa updating the blog while underway

We didn’t want to miss out on the presidential election this fall so we applied for absentee ballots and are all set up when the time comes to vote for our candidate.

We began a blog at the beginning of our first trip mostly for our sons and parents so that they’d easily share in our travels from home. When we returned in the summer of 2006 we had many friends, acquaintances, and even strangers say that they also kept track of us through our blog. We were happily surprised. Now, we’re writing this log for BoatUS and sharing our story with the whole membership, which is exciting. It’s fun to have a creative project such as this to work on along with traveling.

We enjoy the practice and discipline of routinely writing posts then taking and picking out photos that best illustrate what we experienced. It challenges us to put into words what we feel and see at the moment, and both Jim and I think this process actually adds to our experience.

Using logs and blogs also helps us to sell our brand-new book, “When the Water Calls, We Follow” about doing the Great American Loop. For more information, log on to:

We bring what we need. The rest will take care of itself.

It’s comforting to know ahead of time what to expect on our next trip but, sadly in some ways, gone is the excitement of the unknown as far as preparations are concerned. We hope to fill this gap with the pleasure of finding new remote anchorages and small towns along the route. We wonder what the challenges will be of a two-year trip versus one.

I’m having a little trouble leaving too much behind, and keep going back and forth about needing something or not. Jim would go with an empty boat if he could, but that wouldn’t be any fun, would it? We expect that the arrangements and preparations we’ve set in place will have made our trip more enjoyable and essentially worry free. Jim is happy that his boat will be lighter this time around, but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt too much.