- Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
© 1993 - 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 may want or 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.
    Myth Buster # 1 - "You have to be rich, and the boat required to cruise the Great Loop is
    very expensive".  
    Busted: Neither is true!  While a "brand new" live aboard size boat might set you back
    $300,000 or more, there are lots of great used, safe, seaworthy live aboard size boats on the
    market today for $50,000 or less. Many 'ready to go' vessels are for sale for under $36,000 and
    plenty 'handyman specials' can be found under $20,000. In fact in 2016 we purchased two great
    'ready to go' vessels for $6,000 each. They've now been around the Loop twice.
    Busted:  You don't have to be rich - but you do need plenty of money or income! It is possible
    (in the right boat), for a couple to spend a year cruising the Great Loop for less than a $1,000
    per month in total "fuel and boat related" expenses. That's not including any "non-boat" related
    expenses such as food, clothing, beverages, toiletries, entertainment, souvenirs, car rentals or
    on shore excursions along the way.
    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 - and you always have a choice!

           Don't be mislead about it.  This is what we do, but, when we speak of cruising on a frugal
    budget, we are speaking strictly as a matter of choice - NOT as a result of financial hardship or an
    impoverished financial situation. In order to be a happy boater, cruising on a frugal budget must be a
    matter of choice! It will be critically important you remain in your comfort zone and maintain your
    lifestyle. Fact is the best "frugal voyagers" we know can afford vessels much more expensive than
    yours or mine. It's a matter of "how you want to spend your money".
           Capt. John's boating philosophy of "More Fun than Fuel" - it is all about 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 on shore, being a tourist along the way. It is determined by the type & size
    boat you select as well as how you cruise in it. It is a decision between paying $300 to dock your boat
    in a Marina a few times a month - or paying $2,000 a month to stay every night in a Marina vs
    anchoring out for free! The choice is yours! You can always anchor out for free all along the way and
    spend the money you save on other things. Some Loopers anchor out free 5 or 6 nights a week, other
    Loopers almost never anchor out. The choice is yours!  
What will it really cost you?
Believe it or not, the majority of "YOUR" cost to cruise the Great Loop will be closely related to your
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 $2,000 a month in fuel.
Others cruise in a safe comfortable yet "frugal" boat
s with no boat payments burning less than $600 a month
in fuel. While some motor around in sailboat
s or slow boats that burn less than $300 a month in fuel. The
choice should be based on your "lifestyle & comfort zone". What does it take to keep you happy &

    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, long-term, long-distance cost of cruising and boat
If you are on a budget, 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,
most of us could not afford the fuel to cruise the Great Loop in them.

    As Example:  Some boats will easily consume between $25,000 (and more) for fuel alone to cruise
    the Loop. Most will spend near $14,000 if they keep their speed in check. Some will spend less than
    $3,000. 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!  It is your boat, it will be your
    expense! The choice is yours!

 This voyage is much like a VACATION!  Thinking of this voyage simply as a 6,000 mile "boat
ride" is a monumental mistake many Loopers make. With rare exception, you will discover
hundreds of places you will want to stop and linger. There are a tremendous number of
wonderful "onshore excursions" along the way - You will not want to miss them! So be prepared
to stop, shop and eat out at many wonderful places along the way.
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. . .  
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.

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
You can do this!
Yes! I'm living the dream. But
what  you don't know is - I'm NOT
living it the way I originally
dreamed it.
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 boat was a bit too small
but plenty frugal. I needed a little
more space & a lot more comfort.
Now after 9 Loops in 7 boats - I
know how Goldilocks felt . . .
"This boat was just right for me!"

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 -
-    Get ready for a truly 'epic' boating adventure - that inspires!   -
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