Cruising
America's Great Loop
When planning your voyage
it is important to simplify, not complicate.
       What I've learned in 24 years living and cruising on a boat is that a key to success is to keeping your boat
and everything on it as simple as possible. The bigger the boat, the more complicated things get. When you add
unnecessary amenities, you add unnecessary complications. As you will see, almost every stop you make at a
Marina along the way, you will find a boater trying to fix something on his boat - and most of the time - it will be
something he doesn't need on his boat in the first place.
  Out here in this world of 12 volts and water, boats live in a very harsh damp environment. Not only is the
moisture, salt and brackish water floating your boat, it is in the air that gets inside every mechanical and electrical
appliance & component in or attached to your boat. The less stuff, the less stress and the less stuff breaks.
Keeping things simple will give you the most fun, pleasure and comfort.       
      There is no "one way" to cruise America's Great Loop.
While some ways are better than others,  and I believe a Quarter or Half a Loop voyaged in segments is
better than no Loop at all, the very best and safest way is to take your good old easy time all along the way, and
cruise each area by its "preferred" boating season.
Going in a counter-clockwise direction to save fuel is really the only "smart" way to go. Additionally, cruising
each geographic area in this manner during its preferred weather season will bless you with 95% good weather
for your entire voyage. Other than that, there is no 'perfect' Great Loop boat. Your choice of boat is up to you.
Some are better than others, some are faster than others, and some are more economical than others - and you
can bet, the Loop has been done on just about every type boat ever made. There are no set rules that say you
have to cruise the Loop in a particular boat, or within a certain time frame. For example, I know a few "Loopers"
that did it in less than 90 days. On the other hand, I take a full year and have taken as much as three years. Still,
with eight trips around, I have not seen near enough of it yet. I discover something new every voyage!
We are all different.  We all have our own set of schedules, time frames, budgets and life situations. Yes, it all
boils down to your own lifestyle, philosophy, and pocketbook. As a result, there is no one 'perfect boat' to cruise
the Loop in and no one perfect route. Likewise, there is no rule that says you have to do it a certain way or within
a certain time frame. While we like taking our time and cruising with the seasons, if you're into fast boats and jet
skis, go for it! Safety however is always the most important concern!
If you really desire is to cruise the Great Loop, you can do this. No matter what your work, retirement,
income, or situation is - I am a firm believer of "where there is a will, there is a way". It will be well worth the effort to
figure out which way suits you best. For sure, whatever your situation is, it is very likely that someone under
similar circumstances has done it already.
   You can do this!
Remember:  Your voyage around the Loop will be different from mine and unique to
everyone else
.  Rivers change their banks, tides wash away the sands, beaches erode, and the current
moves the muddy bottom just as effortlessly as the wind blows falling leaves.  In addition, silting occurs, sand
dunes form, bridges and wing dams are built, docks, piers, and marinas come and go and the weather can
cause droughts and bring on floods. . .
So, while I encourage you to learn all you need and reasonably can before making this voyage; I caution you
about trying to learn 'everything' or too much. It is after all, not rocket science, and your own experience cruising
the Loop will prove to be not only different than mine, but your best teacher. If you are already a safe boater,
rest assured,
this voyage is far easier and safer to make than you can possibly imagine in advance. So don't
make it more complicated in your mind, than it is.
Above all else. . .  Whether you are new to boating, a novice or an Old Salt, your choice of boat, the
amenities on board, your experience, your boating education; none of that will matter near as much as simply
being a safe boater. Don't let lack of experience or education become your excuse for not going. For sure long
before this voyage is over, you will think back and wonder; "What was it?" that you were so worried or concerned
about in the beginning. This voyage is a long one, but it is not the monster many imagine it can be in advance.

1. Caution should be used when reading books and blogs, or any "dated material".  Don't 'blindly' expect
fuel stops, docks, piers, marinas, safe anchorages, or even water depths to be there when you are. If there is
one thing you can expect cruising the Great Loop, it is the unexpected.
2. Don't spend your cruising cash on paper charts.  (Yes, I've been getting heat over this suggestion
for 20 years.) If you buy paper charts today, chances are they may be a year old already. That means before
you start your voyage, they might be 2 years old and by the time you are half way around the Loop they might
be 3 years old. Your GPS will be much easier and more accurate, because you can download updates as soon
as NOAA enters the change. Since NOAA is the original source of, and responsible for the production of
all
nautical charts, you get them instantly. I backup my GPS and battery power (in case of equipment or electrical
failure) instead of buying all those expensive paper charts that are outdated about as fast as a loaf of bread.
FYI - the USCG recently endorsed the commercial use of GPS digital charts. They no longer require
'paper charts' on commercial vessels.
3. Plan on taking your time. True, in a fast boat or a slow one, averaging 50 miles a day (which is what
most Loopers do) one could "conceivably" cruise the 5,600 miles of the Great Loop in 110 days. However, there
is good reason why most "Loopers" take a year or more to complete their voyage.
4. The Great Loop is not a race. For one thing, there is simply too much to see and do along the way.
In most areas your speed will be greatly limited by 10mph speed limits, no wake zones, tides, water conditions,
traffic and wait times for Bridge or Lock openings. Additionally, you will discover that in most cases a 40 to 60
mile day will put you in a perfect anchorage or Marina for the night.
Your primary consideration in determining your day's cruising distance will very seldom be based
on how fast your boat
can go.  Instead, it will be determined by how far you need to go to reach a particular
Marina or safe anchorage during daylight
. For very few exceptions, it will not be safe or practical to cruise at
night. (My son and I never cruise at night except on portions of the Great Lakes.)  Your secondary consideration
is whether or not there are any stops, restaurants, or interesting sites along the way you want to visit and there
will be plenty of these.
When it comes to cruising the Great Loop; at sundown the Tortoise and the Hare most often find themselves at
the same Marina or safe anchorage. Yes, that big "fast" boat that passes you during the day, will most likely be
at the same Marina or anchorage you are at night. So remember, regardless of your boat's speed capability,
you will do well to average much more than 50 miles a day. Besides, speed can be your very worst enemy.
5. Plan on days off and plenty of rest.  It sounds silly to plan on "days off" from boating when you are
used to planning days off work to go boating. However, the longer you cruise, the more often you will need (and
want) to take a day or two off from cruising. Plan on it! I plan my days off around what I want to see and do on
land. Very seldom do I cruise more than 4 or 5 days in a row, and this works well. I have plenty of time to do
laundry, buy provisions, and see the local sights. I am also off the water when all the weekend party goers are
out drinking on there boats. After a day or two, I'm rested and eager to get going again - on safer less crowded
weekdays and waterways.
The Great Loop routes - click NEXT
© 1993 - CaptainJohn.org
Dear Future Super Looper,
 There are two ways you can consider how our "More Fun than Fuel" boating philosophy might pertain to
you.
1. One way, which typically applies to those strictly dreaming of an epic boating adventure, is that it makes this
voyage
extremely affordable for those on a frugal budget. For solo adventurers or few friends simply out for an
adventure,
we can help you accomplish exactly that, on a very reasonable and frugal budget.
2. For couples, Baby Boomers and those with more time & money, our "More Fun than Fuel" boating philosophy
is very capable of saving you tens of thousands of dollars on fuel and Marina fees. The benefit? It allows
you to
spend the bulk of your money on yourself and your mate having fun ashore.

 
Fact is, for those of you with a "reluctant spouse or 1st Mate" our More Fun than Fuel  philosophy turns this
6,000 mile
"boat ride" into a journey filled with Romance, Travel and Adventure - along with countless waterfront
restaurants, soft sandy beaches, thousands of islands, quaint little seaside towns, captivating villages, incredible
art districts
, historic coastal cities, all bubbling with nightlife; and from romantic Tiki Bars to Seafood Festivals
where you
& your 1st Mate can shuck, shag and shop your way around the entire Loop. It is true, while it is an
'epic' boating adventure, cruising it is only half the fun.
I simply can not stress enough to plan this voyage so that
you have plenty of time and money to visit the wonderful destinations along the way.


  I cruise on a very frugal boat because of several reasons:
 
* My boating philosophy is "MORE FUN THAN FUEL" is NOT because I have less money. It is because I want
to keep the bulk of my money
for having fun ashore at all the wonderful destinations along the way.
   I know Loopers that have recently spent more than $27,000 in fuel. I spend less than $3,000 and have the
balance for having more fun ashore. It's not a matter of having less, it is a matter of how you choose to spend it.
  If you really want to experience America's Great Loop for all its worth, be prepared.  
 
 I believe the reason why so many first time Loopers make this journey a second time is simply because of the
numerous unexpected
temptations of things to do and see where you will want to stop, stay and linger longer.
Capt. John
Cruising
America's Great Loop
- Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
- Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
    Fact is Captain, if you have a reluctant
spouse,
you want to make sure you take those
'blinders' off. This voyage is much more than a
6,000 mile 'boat ride' so don't turn it in to one!
    For example: You can boat to Knoxville on
the Tennessee River. Once you get there,
Gatlinburg and the Smokey Mountain National
Park is just a 1 hour car rental away. A drive to
the highest peak in the Smokey Mountains is
the most visited National Park in the USA - and
for great reasons! Gatlinburg is also a great
place to visit with day & night wonderful things
to see and do. I promise, both you and the
spouse will love it!
    Point is, there are dozens and dozens more
places like this that will make your 'on shore'
experiences absolutely as wonderful as the
voyage itself.
    So make sure you don't go cruising the
Great Loop with your blinders on!