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While it is true, trawlers are the most popular vessel we see on the Great Loop, we also see more of them run aground than
sailboats (probably because of their speed) and there is a also an ever increasing number of sailboats on the Great Loop.
If you're on a frugal budget, you may need to rethink your Great Loop boat. The Loop has been completed by almost every
imaginable type of vessel from Jet Skis, open aluminum boats, pontoon boats, and home built boats, as well as large power and
Here are a few examples of the smaller ones:
|One day Lyn Morgan decided that he, too, would cruise the Great Loop. He however,
took a different view of it than most. Lyn went and had a customized - souped-up pontoon
boat (actually it is a tri-toon) and completed the journey in what is most likely a record
speed. He did it in 57 days.
That's right. It took him 57 days to race through 120 locks and across 5,300 miles
averaging about 40 miles per hour, he traveled about 200 miles per day.
|Most likely, no one has made it around the Great Loop in a powered vessel
more economical then this.
Buzz Gentes traveling aboard his 15-foot sailboat “Dalamar”. Yes, he simply took
the mast off and left it at home to cruise the Great Loop.
He fitted his boat with two, 2-horsepower outboard motors. This arrangement
allowed him to quickly fire up the second motor should the first fail and for additional
power when needed. Traveling at 5 knots, he averaged more than 150 miles on 6
gallons of gas. That's an average fuel burn rate of only 0.24 gallons per hour.
|What is the most economical Great Loop boat?
That's right! Even if you don’t know how to sail – and have no intentions of learning - a sailboat “motored” all the way around
the Great Loop will undoubtedly be your most fuel efficient vessel.
My oldest son taught me this lesson in 2010. I admit, I was totally against the idea. However, in my quest for "more fun than fuel"
my son convinced me to "motor" around in a sailboat. My goal? Was simply to determine how “cheap” a year cruising the Great Loop
could be. So we searched of a suitable sailboat and found a great little 28 footer in St. Augustine for only $3,000. We bought it and
"motored" around the entire Loop averaging less than 0.4 gallons of fuel per hour. We made the entire voyage on $1,300 in fuel
and with a total fuel, oil, tuneup, and engine related expenses less than $3,000.
Think about it this way – It takes just a little bit of wind to move these vessels 7 to 8 knots (about 10 mph) through the water.
Therefore, it takes a very little motor using very little fuel to accomplish the same thing.
As a result of our 2010 voyage, on my next voyage around, I took a 36’ center cockpit ketch. It was a good old one. I bought it for
$10,000, cut the masts off to 13 feet above the water, had a huge Bimini top made that covered almost half the entire vessel, and I
had the keel cut to maintain a 4’ fully loaded draft. It provided plenty of room and comfort, and burned just less than 1 gallon an
hour. Yes, it’s twice the fuel as the 28' Albin Vega, but it’s more than twice the comfort and more than worth the additional fuel.
The Sailboat bonus - Obviously, if you know how to sail or willing to learn, this will be your best of all options as it opens
the door to Island hopping the Caribbean or even sailing around the world. Sailing is fun, easy, quite, and the very most economical
way to live aboard and go long-distance cruising.
It seems that many "Sailors" visiting our website are totally unaware that one can cruise America's Great Loop in a sailboat, but
you can. Fact is if your mast is less than 65' above the water (and most are), and your draft is less than 6' the trip around is very
possible. While we strongly suggest a draft less than 5' (mine is 4'), motoring your sailboat around the Loop opens a wide range of
Of course, sailboats must have their mast removed before entering the Erie Canal, and before entering Chicago or the Cal-Sag.
There are facilities to raise and lower your mast at each end of these locations.
What you may not know is that the design of the sailboat's displacement hull makes it the very most economical vessel on the
water. Think about it! Sailboats are designed to move easily through the water in the slightest breeze. As a result, it requires a very
minimum amount of horse power to move these vessels through the water.
gallons per hour, at a speed of about 8 mph.
A 32' to 36' single engine Trawler might be rated for a 175 to 250hp and have a 8 mph fuel burn rate of 4 gallons an hour.
Twin engines might have a fuel burn rate of 7 to 8 gallons (or more) per hour.
For this reason, you can not obtain a more economical live aboard vessel to cruise the Great Loop even if you take off the mast
or never raise the sails.
Learning to sail of course, is easy and fun. Surprisingly to many beginners, it comes natural once they realize there really isn't
anything hard or difficult about it. With a few lessons, a sailboat will also open your "side trip" options to include a greater range of
boating capabilities - such as the Caribbean and the rest of the world.
|Proof - where there is a will - there is a way. . .
Larry Harcum, completed America's Great Loop in a Jet Ski.
He traveled 5,805 miles in 87 days.
|Special Considerations for Looping in a sailboat
|We get questions all the time, about bridge heights. It just seems sailors have this "thing" about that long tall mast rising up into
the sky that has something important to do with their sailboat. (lol) Truth is, we understand the concern - but it is not near so much
as handicap as one thinks.
For sure, your mast will have to be removed prior to entering the Erie Canal. If you want to sail across the Great Lakes, you
can have the mast stepped in Tonawanda, just past the last bridge on the canal. Once across the Great Lakes, you will have to
remove it again before entering the Chicago River or the Cal-Sag bypass.
Most of the questions we get have to do with "What's next?" It seems everyone wants to know about bridge heights from that 19'
1" bridge at Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico.
From Chicago, most sailors don't step their mast again until they reach Mobile Bay. This is not only what we do, it is what
we strongly suggest. On either route you take, (the Lower Mississippi river or the Tennessee - Tombigbee) it is the traffic and long
frequent stretches of narrow waterways, that restricts your sailing. For most of the way, it is almost impossible sail safely for any
length of time between Chicago and the Gulf of Mexico. The traffic is heavy, the currents are strong, and the marked channels are
simply too narrow, and the wind for the most part blows in your face.
However, if you a small sailboat and can step the mast yourself: If you are taking the route to New Orleans, the lowest bridge on
the Mississippi River is 59' 6". If you are taking the Tennessee-Tombigbee route, all fixed bridges between the leaving the
Mississippi at Cairo, to Mobile Bay have a vertical clearance of at least 52 feet. For a side-trip adventure, you could spend some
time sailing on the beautiful Lakes of Kentucky, Barkley, and Cumberland.
|It is absolutely incredible . . .
That the very most wonderful, amazing and adventuresome voyages
are made in the most simple and humble of boats.
|Even if you don't know how to sail !
|Cruising The Loop in a Sailboat
|Capt. John's new book
is scheduled for release
in April 2016
It makes for a great
at the helm.
|Choosing the right Boat for you - click next