Trawlers:
    It is true, Trawlers are the very most popular
    vessels cruising America's Great Loop. The
    reasons are obvious. For one, the Marinas that
    sell them, promote them as "the perfect Great
    Loop boat".  In addition, they make great live a-
    boards, and are built  (more or less) for long-
    distance cruising.

    However, they are NOT the "perfect" Great Loop
    vessel.  (I don't really believe there is one.) The
    problem with Trawlers on the Great Loop is their
    deep V hull design. In the 40' and longer range
    Trawlers will normally have a 5' (or more) draft.
    These size Trawlers in fact, are the most
    frequent type of vessels we see that have run
    aground.

    Yes, we have seen a few sailboats aground, but
    we expect to see that.  What we don't expect is
    to see is the "perfect boat" for cruising the Great
    Loop - on the rocks or stuck in the mud.

    Now, in fairness of course, anyone can run
    aground, but who wants to cruise around the
    Loop like a white knuckled flier when a more
    relaxed and carefree solution is simply a
    shallower draft?

    Trawlers in the 36' (or less) range however,
    often have a full load draft under 4 feet.
    Additionally, many Shoal-sailboats as well as
    both power and sailing Catamarans will have a
    draft of less then 3'.  
Empty pockets never held anyone back. Empty heads and closed minds do that.
If you really want to do this - you can. Just use your head.
    Don't get me wrong. . . I absolutely love Trawlers.
    My best friend has a Kadey 44 and I just think it is the cat's pajamas. What a wonderful boat!  He bought this $645,000
    (new retail priced) baby for only $29,000 at the Insurance auction after hurricane Rita did some major design
    modifications.  Amazingly, it only took a bit of fiberglass repair and new stainless steel rails and paint to put her back
    in as good as new condition again.  
    But here is my friend's "Great Loop" situation:  According to Kadey-Krogen - this 44' beauty has a DRAFT 4'
    7".  Now normally, that would be great, but if you get the factory specs and read the fine print, it says: "actual draft will vary
    and is based on 50% load capacity". This is not so good.
    Most Trawler owners don't ever even think about this.  If you are cruising long distance, (and that is what trawlers were
    built to do) you have to add about 4,000 lbs of weight in clothes, provisions, equipment, and dinghy, etc.  Now, add the
    weight of 1,050 gallons of fuel, 300 gallons of fresh water and 50 gallons in the Hot water tank . . . Now suddenly, you
    have draft issues.
    If you do the math, 50% of that liquid capacity in this vessel adds 3 tons to it's weight. Now add in an average size
    crew, their gear and equipment, a dinghy, and presto!  You're now up to 4 tons of added weight, and we still have year
    to add provisions, and folks, provisions which normally include all your basic pots, pans, and food staples, plus a
    weeks worth of food and beverages including bottled water. . . It is easy to figure that my friend's Trawler that weighed
    43,130 lbs dry, will sink 1" for every 784 lbs of added weight. So, loaded up with full fuel and storage tank water, gear,
    provisions, dinghy and equipment for the Great Loop,  his "baby" (as he calls her) sinks an additional 12" inches in the
    water.  Now his vessel has almost a 6' draft.
    This of course, is comparable to a sailboat's draft, and eliminates him from cruising the Canadian Heritage Canals -
    unless he dumps some weight and goes with 50% fuel.
    So, when a Trawler skipper is doing the Great Loop thinking his draft, is (within an inch or two) what the manufacturer
    stated - it is no wonder they run aground.
    As a footnote here:   Sure enough, after we launched, fueled and loaded my friend's "Baby" for his voyage around
    the Great Loop, she indeed had an actually measured draft of 5' 7" which is 1 foot greater then the MFG listed draft,
    and this was with his dinghy floating in the water.     
    1.     Your height:   If you want total and unrestricted free cruising options around America's Great Loop with the
    ability to cruise the full length of the Erie Canal - your vessel MUST be able to pass under a 15' 6" fixed overhead
    clearance.  If you can clear 17' but can not clear 15' 6" you can bypass the east section of the Erie Canal and exit onto
    the Oswego Canal and take Lake Ontario to take the northern Canada  route through Canada's Heritage Canals, or
    you can go through the Welland Canal into Lake Erie.
    Finally of course, if you can't clear 19' 1", you will never make it from the Great Lakes (Lake Michigan) to the Illinois or
    Mississippi Rivers and therefore will not be able to complete the Loop.

    2.     Your draft:   If you want total and unrestricted free cruising of America's Great Loop, your vessel's maximum
    "fully loaded" draft should be less then 5 feet. While some cruisers in the past have made it around (the American
    side) with 6' drafts. We suggest 5' or less for several reasons:
    More and more on our trips around, we have noticed the US canals along with many cuts and channels on both the
    Gulf and Atlantic ICW are NOT being dredged and maintained as well or as often as they have been in the past.  Many
    or our favorite gunkholes and anchorages continue to have shallower depth then the time before.  Quite honestly, with
    the Government's current "budget crises" we don't expect any attention (or money) will be paid on waterway
    maintenance outside the navigational boundaries required for use by commercial traffic.  In addition, if your plans
    include cruising the Canadian Heritage Canals you must have a 5' or less draft. ALL the Canadian canals are
    maintained at a 5' minimum.  Note: It is vitally important that you know your vessel's actual fully loaded draft (it will it
    all cases, be much greater than the Mfg. listed draft).  
    3.     Your beam:   As it pertains to pleasure craft, your beam is virtually unrestricted in the US.
    For unrestricted cruising in Canada's Heritage Canals, you have a beam restriction of 23 feet.
    My vessel has a 16' beam. However, I often find myself "out on the T" and on the outside, or in a more undesirable
    dock or slip because most Marinas have yet to construct facilities to accommodate the wider beam Catamarans.  
    Therefore, we have to suggest that a 13' beam is most desirable for easier docking and better slips, but (if you're
    planning on cruising Canada) anything up to 23' is OK.

    4.    Your fuel capacity:  If you want worry free fuel capacity for totally unrestricted cruising of America's Great Loop
    including the Lower Mississippi River route, your vessel needs enough fuel capacity to maintain a cruising range of
    500 miles. This is a "comfort level" (with a tiny bit of reserve) for the 440 miles between fuel stops on the Lower
    Mississippi River.  There are no pleasure boat Marinas between Memphis, TN and the Gulf ICW, but there are several
    to choose from on the Gulf ICW which is 440 miles away.

    Alternate route:  If however, you plan to take the Tennessee-Tombigbee to the Gulf, you need a comfortable fuel
    capacity range of about 300 miles.  There is a run of 250 miles between Hoppies Marina near St. Louis and Green
    Turtle Bay in Kentucky where you have several Marinas to choose from in the are.

    Our fuel concern:  Our fuel concern involves two key Marina locations on the Great Loop.
    The first one of course is Hoppies Marina which is located at mile 158 on the Upper Mississippi River.  If Hoppies
    were to close, then the 250 miles distance between fuel becomes 320 miles from Grafton Landing  to Green Turtle
    Marina on the Tennessee-Tombigbee route.
    Furthermore, If Hoppies closed, it would add another 440 mile leg between fuel stops on the Lower Mississippi River
    route, as the distance between Grafton on the Upper Mississippi River and Mud Island Marinas at Memphis on the
    Lower Mississippi River (Mile Marker 735.8) is 440 miles. The same distance between fuel from Memphis, TN and
    the very only and next Marina (Seabrook Marina) on the Gulf ICW.
    Bobby's Fish Camp is another concern.  Bobby passed away lin 2010.  His daughter is now trying to keep the camp
    going.  If Bobby's stops selling fuel, this adds a distance between fuel stops on the Tennessee-Tombigbee route of
    370 miles between Demopolis Yacht Basin and Eastern Shore Marina at Fairhope, AL or Dog Bay Marina in Mobile
    Bay.  Therefore, these two rather isolated fuel stops are the reasons we highly recommend a 400 mile cruising range,
    along with calling ahead.  We obviously love both these locations and the people (Lora at Bobby's and Fern at
    Hoppies) but still, under the circumstance combined with current economic conditions, we feel that marine fuel at both
    these locations could become unavailable.

    5.  Ocean capable:   The bottom line (and the most expensive of all the Great Loop boat specifications and
    requirements) is that you need an ocean capable vessel. Ocean going vessels have an incredible amount of strength
    in the design and construction of bulkheaded freeboard. This, is that portion of a boat's hull that extends above the
    waterline to the top deck or bulkhead. Then it is shaped further upward as it tapers forward at the bow to reflect the
    water.  What most people don't realize is that a "moderate breeze" of 11 knots will often generate 4' waves.  One
    square yard of a 4' wave packs an average wallop of 7.5 tons.  This is why pontoons and pontoon houseboats (and
    yes, we have seen it happen more then once) head out to sea on a calm day looking like rectangles, and quickly come
    crippling back looking more like trapezoids.
    The ocean, even that small portion of the Gulf you have to cross, is no place for a pontoon boat, pontoon houseboat, or
    otherwise, non-coastal, non-ocean capable vessel.
    Just the other day a reader (whom a year ago) emailed us asking about taking his pontoon houseboat around the
    Great Loop, sent us a kind of "thank you for your advise" along with an article about a horrific experience of another
    boater attempting to take his "Catamaran Aqua Cruiser houseboat" across the Gulf from Carrabelle.  The article
    ended with the owner's statement: "Don't try this! We are lucky to be alive."
    In the article the man stated he "bought the Catamaran Cruiser for the purpose of doing the Great Loop".
    It furthermore goes to prove, you can't always trust that boat salesman to know anything about what he is selling you.
Great Loop boat specifications are:
    So, what is the perfect Great Loop boat?
    It would be one with an unrestricted height above the water of less then 15' 6".
    It would also have a full load draft (depth under the water) of 5' or less.
    It would have a beam (or width) of 13' (because most of the better slips are available)
    It would also have a cruise range of at least 500 miles without refueling.
    It would have to be an ocean capable vessel for crossing the Gulf & the Great Lakes.
    In addition:
    Of course, it should be safe, seaworthy, comfortable, and fully paid for.
    Furthermore, it should be extremely economical. The Loop itself is about 5,800 miles and
    offers a tempting 24,000 miles of tempting navigable detours and side trips. At $6.00
    (or more) for fuel, you will want a very economical vessel to operate.
Sailing around America's Great Loop
    Of course one has to be very careful when choosing a sailboat for cruising the Great Loop. Both your draft and your
    bridge height are of concern. You don't want to run aground, and you having to deal with raising and lowering your
    mast as needed. However, with rising fuel costs, the economy of a sailboat is definitely a big advantage to consider
    when planning to navigate the Great Loop.

    There are many challenges with cruising the Great Loop in a sailboat. If dealing with shallow water isn't enough,
    there is dealing with locks while carrying a horizontal mast that extends beyond your bow and your stern. There are low
    bridges and lower bridges, and the occasional battle with lowering and raising the mast which is both a hassle and
    costly. Still, this is trivial to the current cost of fuel per gallon.

    If you have a shallow draft (under 5 feet) sailing around the Great Loop is worth the hassle of dealing with your mast.
    The experience itself is worth the effort, the money you save in fuel however, more than just icing on the cake.

    Much of the Atlantic can be sailed inside or out.  So can the Great Lakes, and so can your voyage across the Gulf.
    The Inland Rivers however can be easily (and economically) cruised with your motor running at almost idle speed. You
    need just enough control to keep your vessel straight and bow pointed in the direction you want to go.

    Still however, fuel capacity and motoring range, as well as your vessel's loaded draft may be a "veto factor" in
    regards to a particular sailboat, but we always meet a lot of Loopers in sailboats.

    On our last trip we met a couple that had "shipped" his mast from Chicago to Mobile. We also came across two
    couples doing the Great Loop on an old (really old) 50' sailboat on which they had cut the keel and the wooden masts
    off. They were simply motoring around the Loop on the vessel's small economical 39hp engine.

    Today, because of the depressed economy, there is a flood seaworthy sailboats on the market at almost giveaway
    prices. Since most Loopers (regardless of the size or speed of their vessel) can only average between about 50 miles
    a day, a big nice comfortable (even) non-sailing sailboat might just put you in a great economical "Looper Boat" for
    little money to buy and even less to operate.

    Update (Jan 2012):
    My son and I are currently doing the Loop again. This time, in a sailboat. Our goal is to see just how "cheap" one can
    full-fill this dream in its entirety. So, we are keeping good records of all expenses along the way. From buying the boat
    to crossing our wake.
    We purchased a great old & ugly, but seaworthy 30 footer and so far we have traveled almost 2,000 miles averaging .
    4 gallon per hour. (Yes, that's "point four" as in less than 1/2 gallon). So far, we have "sailed" very little, probably less
    than 60 miles total, and we subtract our "sailing" miles to determine our fuel burn rate.
    We are currently taking our good easy time cruising around Florida, waiting for Spring to start our way North.
    Our sailboat is a 30' mono-hull equipped with a 9.9hp 4 stroke outboard. We had the engine checked out and tuned up
    before we left - and so far we have had a trouble fee voyage averaging 49 miles per cruising day, for a total fuel cost of
    just under $16.00 a day.
    If we are able to complete the Loop as anticipated, based on our current average fuel burn rate, the entire voyage will
    have cost us pennies less than $2,000.00 in fuel.       
    We get this question a lot:
    "Can I take my sailboat around America's Great Loop?  If so,
    how much trouble will it be?"

    Well, the answer is: Yes, you most certainly can take your
    sailboat around the Great Loop.
    There are a number of ways to do this.
    My oldest son is the "sailor" in our family. It is doubtful he will ever give up
    sailing for any reason. He has not only sailed around the world, he has
    cruised the Great Loop in it as well..
On this page . .  The answer to:
What boat is best. . . For cruising the Great Loop?
    To avoid this happening to you:
    1.   Know your boat as well as it's "true" fully
    2.   Never take ANY short cuts across Bays & Sounds
    or bends in the channel.
    3.   ALWAYS stay between the red & green
    buoys.
    4.   Always cruise shallower areas on a rising tide.
    5.   ALWAYS pay attention.
At $4.50 a gallon (or more) for marine fuel. . .
It may be time to rethink "the Looper Boat".
    Great Loop in a sailboat.
    I know, it sounds (and is) very contradictory to own a sailboat and not know how to sail. However, many people do just
    that. In addition, the design of the sailboat's displacement hull makes it the very most economical vessel on the water
    today.
    If you think about it, these vessels are designed to move easily through the water in just a light breeze. As a result it
    only requires between 3 and 4 hp per ton of displacement weight to move these vessels through the water at their
    designed hull speed. Any more hp than that is useless and wasteful, as once the vessel reaches it's maximum hull
    speed, it can not go even as much as one mph faster.
    The result is, a 36' or 40' sailboat might be rated for a 25 to 40hp engine. For this reason, you can not obtain a more
    economical vessel, even if you never raise the sails, cut off the mast, or leave it at home.  But. . . Learning to sail of
    course, opens your options to include a greater range of boating capabilities, such as the Caribbean.    
© 1993 - 2012 CaptainJohn.org
The Scoop on boating the Loop
Capt John's America's Great Loop
    Fuel capacity and vessel economy. . .   Surprisingly, many Loopers never give fuel (or cruise range) a
    second thought. They just assume there will be a Marina where and when they need one.  But this can be a Great Loop
    mistake.

    Lower Mississippi route to New Orleans:
    Your major problem with cruising the Lower Mississippi River is NOT the Tows, the Tugs, the bugs, or the current; as
    most people (most who have actually never done it) might say.  The single biggest concern, and main obstacle is fuel,
    or should I say lack of it. As well as lack of full service Marinas if you have trouble.

    Of course, there are fuel alternatives: Kidd River Fuel is one of them. They are fuel jobbers that will truck in fuel to a
    designated dock.  This fuel comes with a premium. Kidd River Fuel has a dock located at the Upper Mississippi Mile
    marker 51.9.  To arrange fuel, you must call at least 24 hours in advance of arrival, and they have a 100 gallon
    minimum, with a premium price on their fuel.  Furthermore, Kidd River no longer will deliver gasoline, only diesel.
    There are other companies that will truck in fuel in Vicksburg, Natches, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. Some handle
    gasoline & diesel, some don't. If your vessel uses gasoline, I would not count on any truck delivered fuel being
    available.
Trawlers are not only the most popular vessel for cruising the Great Loop.
They are also the most common vessel to run aground.