Stories from the Great Loop
Life on the Loop
So You Want to do the Loop
There’s no one right way to do the Loop, there’s no one right way to prepare for it and there’s no perfect boat for it. Some spend years preparing, others start on a wing and a prayer. Some use big boats, others small ones. Some buy every conceivable electronic aid, some get by on a minimum of antiquated gear. A few stay at marinas every night, a few anchor every night; most do both. Some take months, some years. Some spend a lot of money, others not so much.
Where do you start?
America’s Great Loop Crusiers’ Association (AGLCA) is a good beginning. Its website has good information and several forums as well as links to Loopers’ blogs and websites. On the Loop it sponsors a tight knit group of very helpful harbor hosts. AGLCA also does events around the country to introduce people to the Great Loop. Capt. John’s Super Loopers is another site to look at.
Forums and blogs are usually written in real time about real situations which can make them easier than textbooks to wrap your head around. But be aware that Loopers, like everybody, sometime pontificate to the point of intimidation, especially when they get into opinions and details of electronic equipment, engines, fuel consumption, etc. Don’t let them give you a sudden feeling that you’re in over your head. You can safely skip these jargon filled discussions until they may be pertinent.
Many postings focus on the best or worst of what people have experienced. The worst may feel like Armageddon on water. Don’t let any single post scare you. Multiple posts on the same issue deserve more attention. Occasionally ego, values or prejudices creep into posts, making the reading less fun and at times uncomfortable. And most would also benefit from a good editor, though I accept that that is an old fashioned concept.
If you haven’t done a lot of boating, or maybe even if you have, the best way to prepare for any boating is with something near the top of everyone’s advice list: take the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s (USCGA) Boating Skills and Seamanship course. It’s a less humiliating way to find out what you don’t know. Some states require it or something similar to register a boat and it may earn you a discount on boat insurance too.
The USCGA Weekend Navigator course is also good. You may never use a divider or parallel rule with intent, but if you’re like me, there’s some comfort in knowing at least something about how those chart plotters think. And as the course points out, you can never be 100% sure that your chart plotter won’t have a heart attack. That’s why most Loopers run two or more navigation apps simultaneously. The thought of figuring out where you are on your own can be chilling if you have no idea where to start.
Similar courses are taught by America's Boating Club, AKA United States Power Squadrons.
Learn what you can; knowledge is always a good thing. But don’t stress over not knowing everything or being able to afford all the toys or biggest boat. Confidence and common sense go a long way on the Loop. Your kids survived you. You’ll survive the Loop. Go Boldly Forward.