Stories from the Great Loop
Life on the Loop
The Great Loop Learning Curve
Some degree of a learning curve awaits anyone starting the Great Loop. Even if you’ve been boating your entire life, the Loop will take you to new places that may require new or different ways of doing things.
You’ll boat every type of water: inland, tidal and marsh rivers, canals, waterways, lakes, sounds, bays and ocean. You’ll be in fresh water from the Erie Canal to Mobile Bay and salt water in the Gulf of Mexico, a bit (or a lot, your choice) of ocean and a lot, but surprisingly not all, of the Gulf, West Florida, Atlantic and New Jersey ICWs. You’ll dock at every type of marina, tie up to sometimes crumbling town or canal walls and anchor in many beautiful places under all sorts of conditions.
You’ll lock through big locks on the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee (or Cumberland), Tombigbee Rivers and Tenn-Tom Waterway, smaller ones on the Erie Canal and maybe across the Okeechobee. You can choose to explore historical ones through the Dismal Swamp in Virginia and the Trent Severn and Rideau in Canada.
Occasionally, you’ll be out of sight of land. At some point you’ll have to work your way through some shallow channel that needs to be dredged and others plenty deep but less than 100 feet wide lined with semi-submerged rocks within spitting distance on parts of the Georgian Bay and North Channel small craft routes in Canada.
You’ll lay over every now and then due to high wind or local weather. You’ll learn to pay attention to long range forecasts especially if you have some open water ahead, but mostly enjoy warm weather and good conditions. You may get some chilly evenings if you tarry too long on the Great Lakes or start late on the Tennessee like I did (and deal with duck hunting season: don’t anchor anywhere near duck decoys). The temperatures in Canada, just like on the Great Plains, can hit triple digits, though not on the sensible, but unfamiliar scale they use.
You’ll undoubtedly see dolphins, probably alligators and snakes, manatees if you look hard, whales if you’re lucky and, like me, a sea turtle in open water if you’re very lucky. You may even have a fish land uninvited in your boat. And you’ll meets lots of very interesting people.
You may be embarrassed at some point, but probably not humiliated. You may ding your boat, maybe a couple times, but probably not sink it. You may get frustrated, but hopefully not lose your patience. You will be surprised by some big water, but your boat will handle it better than you. You may need a tow, but that’s why you pay good money for tow insurance. Eventually, you’ll probably drag anchor, curse at your chart plotter, blow up some engine part, argue with Admiral, kick the dog or wish you had more bug spray, but you’ll survive. And the Admiral, dog and bugs will too.
Welcome to the Great Loop Learning Curve.