- Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
© 1993 - 2017 CaptainJohn.org
Go or No Go"  Your Great Loop boat restrictions:

    1.)  Your boat must be able to clear a 19' 1" fixed bridge.  This means, after taking off or taking
    down, any removable objects on your boat such as; Bimini, Masts, Antennas, etc.  Your boat's super-
    structure must be able to pass under a fixed bridge between Chicago and the Illinois River with a height
    above the water of 19' 1".  There is no alternative waterway route around this bridge.

    2.) Your boat "should" have a draft of 5 feet or less.  In other words, all that part of your boat
    that extends below the water, should not be deeper than 5 feet. NOTE: Some guides will tell you 6
    feet - you can do it with a 6' draft but it will restrict your route choices. Be aware,  the shallower your
    draft, the better.   If your plans include cruising the (optional) Canadian Heritage Canals, your full
    load draft must be 5 feet or less. However, don't let a 6 foot or even a 6' 6" draft stop you from going.
    You can do it, only your route choices will be limited. For sure, the less draft you have, the less stressful
    your voyage will be.

    3.) Fuel - your boat must have a minimum fuel range of 250 miles.
    This is the farthest distance between fuel stops if you take the Tennessee-Tombigbee route  until the
    new Marina & Fuel stop opens at Paducah, then it will be about 210 miles. So, unless you plan on
    carrying additional fuel in jerry cans, right now your boat's fuel tank(s) capacity must allow you a cruising
    range of at least 250 statute miles (that's with no reserve).
    NOTE: (optional route) If you plan to cruise the Lower Mississippi River route from Cairo to New
    Orleans, your "diesel powered" boat will need a cruising range of 376 miles.  Your "gasoline
    powered" vessel must have a cruising range of at least 450 miles. This is because there is a "Diesel
    Fuel Only" truck delivery service on the Mississippi river.
You need a depth sounder:
We have a depth finder on our vessel even though our GPS gives us the depth as well, and feel real
comfortable with having both. In fact, we suggest you have both. This way if one goes on the blink for any
reason, you should still have use of the other.
Knowing the waters depth and tides on the Great Loop at all
times is really - really important.

You need a VHF radio:
Not only is your VHF important for safety, such as contacting the USCG and getting USCG hazard reports, it
also gives updated weather; you can also contact BoatUS, and/or Sea Tow. You will also need it for daily
contact with Lock Masters and Bridge Tenders along the way. Additionally, it is great for getting local
information from other boaters as well as approach and docking instructions from Marinas.

You need a dinghy:
Actually, this is not a 'must have', but it is highly recommended. While a good used (hard bottom) dinghy
might cost you upwards of $500, and
a new one might cost a $1,600 (or more) a good dinghy will save you
more then it cost over the length of your adventure. Most areas you will be boating in offer free "dinghy
docks" whereas, without a dinghy, you will pay to dock your vessel.

You will want & need  "Skipper Bob's Cruising Guide:
 On the top of our list of Cruising guides is Skipper Bob.  Our Skipper Bob's is a constant companion at the
We refer to them everyday several times a day. In fact, we would not leave the dock without the most
recently updated Skipper Bobs He gives you the route, the marinas, and all the best anchorages and the
entire Great Loop coverage is $19.95. It's probably the best deal in the entire Marine business.
 As far as the larger, full color (more expensive) Waterway Guides are concerned, they are big, thick, and
mostly full of full color advertising for Yachts & Yacht Clubs. For these guides you can expect to pay $280.00
(or so) to cover the entire Loop.
Getting ready for your great - Great Loop adventure
    Myth Buster # 1 - "You have to be rich, and the boat required to cruise the Great Loop is
    very expensive".  
    Busted: I want to say "Neither is true" but I guess that depends on one's definition of 'rich'. For
    sure, a "brand new" live aboard size boat might set you back $300,000 or more, however there
    are lots of great used, safe, seaworthy live aboard size boats on the market today for around
    $100,000 and many good respectable ones for near $50,000 while more great handyman
    specials can be found for under $25,000.
    Busted:  No, you do not have to be rich - but you do need plenty of money or income! It is
    possible for two people to spend a year cruising the Great Loop for $25.00 to $100.00 a day (or
    less) for fuel, Marinas, canal fees, and boat related expenses. My last two journeys around the
    Loop averaged costing me pennies less than $27.00 a day for ALL my "fuel and all boat
    related expenses". That did NOT include any "non-boat" related expenses such as food,
    clothing, beverages, toiletries, onshore entertainment, souvenirs, car rentals, motel stays, or on
    shore excursions along the way. So that $27.00 a day is in fact, my total expenses for
    "transportation & lodging". It is my cost of living and cruising in my boat. I have no boat
    Myth Buster # 2 -  "Living on a boat is cheap!"
    Busted:  Living on a boat is NOT cheap. While it can a very economical lifestyle if one has a
    fully paid for vessel (no boat payments). The cost of living on a boat will normally compare to
    that of living in an efficiency apartment. It can also be more expensive than a Penthouse Suite.
    The choice is yours!

           Don't be mislead about it.  This is what I do, but, when I speak of cruising on a frugal budget, I
    am speaking strictly as a matter of choice - NOT a result of financial hardship or an impoverished  
    financial situation or condition. In order to be a happy boater, cruising on a frugal budget must be a
    matter of choice!
           Frugal Voyaging is simply making a financial decision between spending the bulk of your money
    on your boat, fuel and boat related expenses or on yourself and having fun. It is determined by the
    type & size boat you select as well as how you cruise in it. It is a decision between paying $180 a
    month to dock your 36 footer in a Marina 5 nights - or paying about $1,100 a month for staying every
    night in a Marina. You can always anchor out for free all along the way and spend the money you save
    on other things. I average anchoring out 5 nights a week, some never anchor out, and others never
    stay in a Marina except on occasions when they need, want or have to. The choice is yours!  
What does it really cost?
     Believe it or not, the majority of  "YOUR" cost to cruise the Great Loop will be closely related to
own  "current" lifestyle, comfort zone, size and type of boat, as well as "What's in your wallet". Some
cruise the Loop in big twin engine boats with $1,000 monthly
boat payments burning a $25,000 in fuel.
Others cruise in a safe comfortable yet "frugal" boat with no boat payments burning less than $5,000 in fuel.
The choice (and that of something in between) is yours!
    Myth Buster # 3 -  "Your needs and wants while living on your boat will be much less than
    living on land."
    Busted  -  Not true! While the physical conditions of living on a boat will require certain changes
    in your daily routine; fact is, we all have our own unique lifestyles & comfort zones. We all have
    our likes and dislikes. If you dislike something on land, you won't like it on your boat either.
    Likewise, if there is something you 'must have' at home, you 'must have' it on your boat as well.
    So, when estimating your costs, don't over look the things that make you happy and keep you in
    your comfort zone. They will not change when you move on to your boat.  
Predetermined cost of cruising:
       CRITICALLY IMPORTANT:  even after paying cash for your boat - the very moment you select
your boat,
you have just selected your on going cost of cruising and boat ownership. If you are on a budget,
especially a frugal one, I can not emphasize this enough.
       Your boat choice is absolutely critical to your on going cost of cruising and ownership. I can name
dozens of boats that if given away free, I could not afford to cruise the Great Loop in them
- simply because
they would cost far too much for the fuel they burn.         
    As Example:  Some boats will consume between $25,000 to $35,000 (and more) for fuel alone to
    cruise the Loop. Most will spend near $12,000. I will spend less than $5,000. So, you see? Even if the
    boat was free or fully paid for, the type, size, engine(s), and speed capability of your boat can make a
    huge difference in your cost of cruising. Point is, you have options. You need to know exactly what
    your options (and cost of cruising will be) before you buy.  Don't let the Boat Salesman (or anyone
    else), decide what is right for you! The choice is yours!
On this page, we are going to go through a very short list of some of the more important things you will need
to know. . .  Then, we are going to give you suggestions on equipping and provisioning your boat. After that, and
on the next few pages. . . We will give you a "leg by leg" preview of your entire journey around America's Great
For more "Scoop on the Loop" -   click NEXT
In addition to your boat, you will need lots of other stuff. . .
      In addition to all your USCG required Safety equipment, you will need and want a substantial amount of
"boat stuff" on your boat. As a heads up on this 'stuff' - let me just say I have long ago proven time and time
again that "Marine Grade" is always better than regular household stuff. Doesn't matter what it is. Marine
Grade is also more expensive, but will prove cheaper in the long run as it will out work and out last everything
that is not marine grade.
      Additionally, this is another good reason to consider buying a used boat, as normally a ton of USCG
required equipment and many additional "extras" will come with it. While it may not seem like much, often it
will save you $5,000 to 10,000 or more compared to buying all that stuff new.

Paper charts: You DON"T need them!
Electronic or digital charts - you will need them!
           Since NOAA is the original source of all nautical charts, I have chosen to backup my electronic
    GPS Charts and battery power (in case of either equipment or electrical failure) instead of buying
    paper charts (which become outdated very fast). Electronic charts are updated on a continual basis -
    and - in the long run - much cheaper and much safer and easier to use.
       You need a GPS navigational system:
      I use a mid-priced Lowrance GPS navigation system. It works very similar to the GPS in most cars. I turn
it on and as soon as it gets a fix on my position, it displays the channel boundaries and markers, and gives a
magenta line path to follow. It also shows water depths, hazards, mile markers, and marinas along the way,
and has an optional off/on switch that allows us to find the nearest Walmart, Starbucks, Restaurants,
hospital, pharmacy, rental car, airport, shopping, site-seeing and interesting sites along the way.
would have loved this!).
I also back-up my GPS on my Laptops, and I use Navonics (only $15 a year) on my
Cruising America's Great Loop
Cruising America's Great Loop
will fill your life with rainbows!
Yes! I'm living the dream. But
what  you don't know is - I'm NOT
living it the way I originally
dreamed it.
No, not by a long shot.!
My "Plan A" was cruising in a
"dream boat". That (of course)  
proved to be way too costly.
My "
Plan B" was a smaller Trawler.
Still it was a twin engine gas
guzzler and I could not afford the
fuel and keep cruising.

Finally, I realized my dream was
NOT about the boat - but rather
the voyage and the adventure.

Plan C was a bit too small but
plenty frugal. I needed a little more
space & a lot more comfort.
Now after 8 Loops in 6 boats - I
know how Goldilocks felt . . .
"This boat was just right!"

My boating experience on the Loop
has taught me much about the
Loop as well as boats. I made a lot
of mistakes. Still, each voyage has
been better, sweeter, more
economical, more carefree much
more fun than each one before.
So, here's hoping you discover
enough on this website to make
your very 'first' Loop experience
every bit as wonderful, carefree
and fun as my last.
            - Capt. John
Live your boating dream
America's Great Loop
- Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
- Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
Capt John's Boat Card
     NOT a business card - a "Boat Card"
    If you don't have one, you will want one!
    Cruising the Loop can be a very wonderful "social
event". You will meet a lot of other Loopers on this voyage
and most will want to exchange "Boat Cards" with you. They
also come in real handy at Marinas and for anyone that
needs to get in touch with you along the way. Your boat
card should include your Boat's Name, your name, Home
Port & email. Your cellphone # is optional. I write mine on
the back.
-  Once Around Is Not Enough  -
     If you don't know where you
are going in life. . .
     At least make sure you go far!
 - Capt. John