Inspired To Travel:
The Looper Lifestyle
By Michael Vatalaro
America's Great Loop is, first and foremost, an idea. The idea that you can navigate, thanks to locks and canals intended to aid commerce, all the way around the eastern half of the U.S. in your boat. Forget for the moment the logistical challenges of this 6,000-mile adventure. Forget that many of us never regularly spend more than a weekend aboard, let alone the months required to complete the journey. Forget too, the mental hurdle of leaving behind your life on land, even if only temporarily.
Instead, imagine joining the select group of boaters who've completed the Loop, voyaging through at least 14 states and a Canadian province or two. It may not match the physical challenge of summiting Everest, say, but this idea grabs hold of some boaters and drives them in much the same manner. And in their quest, they become positively infectious with enthusiasm towards their goal.
Because It's There
Founded in 1999, the America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association (AGLCA) is a tight-knit community of around 4,000 members who gather at spring and fall rendezvous, and online, to exchange information (and inspiration) about the Loop. The group's founders, Ron and Eva Stob, completed the Loop in 1994. Five years later, they published a book about it, called Honey, Let's Get a Boat, and discovered a small, but energetic demand for information on how to go about the journey.
"We inadvertently kicked off a movement of sorts," says Ron. Migration might be a better term. Each spring, a small cadre of mostly powerboaters (fixed bridges along the route mean sailors must un-step their masts to complete the loop) set forth along the East Coast, with the goal of reaching the Chesapeake Bay in May. Not coincidentally, the AGLCA Spring Rendezvous is held in Norfolk, Virginia, at the mouth of the Chesapeake in early May each year. From there, Loopers continue north on their journey, circumnavigating the eastern U.S. in a counter-clockwise fashion, which allows them to time the seasons to be in the higher latitudes in summer, and not exit the protection of the western rivers until after hurricane season. This pattern also allows "Loopers" to go with the flow of the Mississippi and other river legs. Of course, like in all groups, there are those who go against the grain.
The captain of a souped-up pontoon boat takes on the historic Great Loop, and makes his dream come true
Tackling the Great Loop with three young kids turns out to be doable and rewarding for this family of five
The Chicago waterways that give barges access to the Gulf of Mexico also provided a path for invasive species
How To Make A Good Boat Better
Craig and Barbara Wolf's 43 Sabreline trawler Blue Heron absolutely gleamed dockside at Waterside Marina in Norfolk in May, but even this relatively new boat had been modified. "We bought the perfect boat, and then made it more perfect," was how Barbara described the work they had done by Virginia's Deltaville Boatyard. With two large retrievers as members of the crew, getting to, and off, the swim platform was an issue. The original transom design of the Sabreline featured two tall steps from the platform cut into the transom to get up and onto the aft cabin trunk, which were difficult for the dogs. The solution was to extend the swim platform and add a third step, making each shorter and more gently sloped.
Aboard Karma, Ivy and Bob Neubauer, 18-year liveaboards from Coconut Grove, Florida, showed off a simple, effective solution to a problem created by a shallow anchor locker. Bob, a former TowBoatUS operator, rigged a self-aiming anchor-rode washdown out of PVC tubing that allows one crewmember to be below in the forward cabin flaking the rode, while the windlass retrieves it. In engineer's jargon, this is known as a "kludge," a crude but effective solution. "I'd like to add one or two more nozzles to make it more effective," said Bob.
But one of the busiest boats on the Looper Crawl hasn't been modified at all. A brand-new Beneteau 34 Swift Trawler embarking on a Great Loop cruise this summer has made the trip to Norfolk specifically for the Rendezvous. Beneteau, along with numerous partner sponsors, is sending the boat around the Loop to showcase both this new model, from a builder known for quality performance and cruising sailboats in the U.S., and to promote awareness of the Loop itself. With its distinctive blue bow-wrap and NASCAR-worthy smattering of logos, the sleek Beneteau Swift Trawler should make an impression at waterfronts all along the route. Follow the boat's progress at www.TheGreatestLoop.com.