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It doesn't matter where you start: as long as you begin your journey in the safe weather season for the geographic area from
where ever you live or start. To accomplish this, we "Spring" up the Atlantic Coast. We "Summer" across the cooler North, we "Fall"
down the Inland Rivers, and "Winter" across the much warmer south.
In Spring - We cruise north on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway:
Officially, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway begins at Mile 0 in Norfolk, VA and ends at Mile 1,243 in Key West, FL for a total “AICW” distance
of 1,243-miles. For our purposes, we will be cruising counter-clockwise starting in Ft. Pierce, FL near the junction of the Okeechobee Waterway
at Stuart and the St. Lucie Inlet. In doing so, you will be heading north as your Mile Markers countdown from Mile 966 at Ft. Pierce to Mile 0 in
Norfolk. To continue the voyage up the East Coast, we connect you with the Chesapeake Bay, the C&D Canal, Delaware Bay, the New Jersey
ICW, NY Harbor and the Hudson River.
Spring time should come to a close and Summer begins near the time you are in Waterford, New York, at the Welcome Center of the NY
State Canal System. On 'average' this portion of our journey from Stuart near Ft. Pierce, FL consists of 46-travel days. We generally spend
another 40-days being a tourist along the way.
In Summer - We are in the North headed west:
You will have several options when you reach the Erie Canal. The most popular two options give you a choice of cruising through Canada or
remaining in the US. The total distance on the Erie Canal is 338 miles. It stretches from Waterford, NY to the Upper Niagara River between
Buffalo and Niagara Falls. If you take a left on the Niagara River, this will be your connection into Lake Erie. If you turn right on the Niagara
River, well let's just say you will have one exciting side-trip over Niagara Falls, and all your friends will probably see you on the ten o'clock news.
Never fear however, you will be heading away from the Falls into Lake Erie. Your first of the three Great Lakes you will be cruising on this totally
American side route.
If going to Canada, then you will take the Erie Canal to 3-Rivers junction. This is where you will exit the Erie Canal and take the Oswego Canal
to (you guessed it), Oswego! From Oswego on Lake Ontario, it is an easy day ride of 56-miles to Kingston, ON. Which, while we offer options,
we suggest Loopers make Kingston their Port of Entry into Canada.
Either route you take (Canada or Great Lakes) both will separate at 3-Rivers junction and meet up again at Mackinac Island at the top of
Both the US & Canadian routes are exceptional:
Beginning at Waterford, the USA route through the full length of the historic Erie Canal, this route also takes you along the southern shores
(US side) of Lake Erie, through Lake St. Clair and along the eastern shores of Michigan to Mackinac Island. All along the way there is simply a
boaters world of stuff to see and do and you have plenty of time of time to do it. As you only need 27-travel days to reach Mackinac Island.
Notice on the Map above: Each travel day and destination is numbered. The ones in maroon indicate the US only, Great Lakes route. The
maroon numbered "travel days & destinations" are between 3-Rivers junction and Mackinac Island. Since each travel day "averages" near 40-
miles a day, even in a slow boat will have you at the next safe (and mostly exciting) destination every evening before dark. So, if you count the
numbered travel days, you will instantly know how many "travel days" you need to reach your any of the best destinations on the entire Great
For example, Chicago is #94. That means it took us 94-travel days to get there from Ft. Pierce where we began our journey. If we want to
know how many travel days there are between Chicago and Green Turtle Marina #108, we just count the days (or subtract 108-94=14) travel
days. Take note however, these are only "travel days". Certainly it will take us longer to get there because we will need and want to stop, shop,
stay and linger at all the more interesting destinations along the way. You will also need days not cruising simply to rest. Count on it!
Also, you might notice, the "travel days" on both the US & Canadian route are the same. We didn't plan it that way. It just turned out that way.
While the two routes differ by more than 200-miles, your "travel days" are most likely to be the same. This is a result wait times at Locks & Lift
Bridges as well as speed limits. So, don't make a decision in favor of one route over the other based on distance, as both routes have
destinations that can be skipped, both routes have options, and both routes can be shorter or longer depending on how you want to cruise
them. In the end however, both routes will end up requiring the same number of travel days.
Cruising Canada is an incredible experience. Most Loopers claim it to be the highlight of their voyage. For sure, it is one of ours. Then again,
so was the Erie Canal the first time we did it. So too was our "side-trip" to Quebec City. So too was our voyage up the full length of the
Tennessee River to Knoxville and the 1-hr car rental to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. We also have to include Chesapeake Bay,
Ocracoke, and about 50 other destinations as highlights of this voyage.
For sure, either way and either route has much to offer, and your only real deadline is winter. You will need to be south of Chicago before it
starts getting cold. Normally, this will be October. So, from Oswego to Kingston to the Trent Severn, including optional side-trips to Ottawa,
Montreal, Quebec City and the Saguenay to see the Big Blue Whales! Canada has more wonderful destinations than one can possibly visit in a
single summer boating season. Georgian Bay and North Channel are where dramatic landscapes and shorelines are unspoiled & unforgettable.
This is where remote is defined and where quaint little places with savory seafood will beckon your return. Our suggestion? Don't miss cruising
In Fall - we are on the Inland Rivers:
Your Great Loop distance on this river is 334 miles. This baby is the connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, and the
location of that 19' 1" bridge you must go under. The Illinois river's close proximity to the Chicago River and the man-made Chicago Ship Canal
is why we have a Great Loop and not a "Great U-turn". This leg of your journey takes you to the Mississippi River at Grafton, IL.
Mississippi River: This leg of your journey is only 219 miles to Cairo at the junction of the Ohio River and the Lower Mississippi. From Cairo,
you may want to take the Ohio River to the Cumberland, on your way to the Tennessee-Tombigbee route to Mobile Bay. Or if you wish, (and
you have the fuel range) you may want to continue south on the Lower Mississippi route to New Orleans.
Ohio River: If you take the Tenn-Tom route, your Great Loop distance on this river is only about 48 miles, but it's all against the current of the
mighty Ohio River. From Cairo, IL this baby takes you to the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers at Paducah, KY., and into what is referred to as
the "Land between the Lakes", and the very "Heartland of America".
Cumberland River: Your Great Loop distance on the Cumberland River & Lake Barkley to the Tennessee River is an optional 33 miles. This is
also your gateway for a side-trip to Nashville. This is a beautiful cruise and we have lots more about it on this link.
Tennessee River: Your Great Loop distance on this river is 215 miles. It is 207 miles from the Ohio River to Pickwick Landing Lock and Dam
- 8 miles further is the entrance of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
Tennessee-Tombigbee: Your distance on the Tennessee-Tombigbee to Mobile Bay 234 miles. The Tennessee - Tombigbee Waterway (by
the way) was a bigger man made canal project than the Panama Canal. WOW!
In Winter - We should all be on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and/or in Florida: Obviously, the most comfortable winter weather
will be cruising along the deep south in winter. Did you know that Florida's winter south of Tarpon Springs on the Gulf and Titusville on the
Atlantic has an average winter temperature of 70-degrees? In fact a couple of winters we spent here we were comfortable wearing shorts all
winter long. While it can and does get awful chilly at times, those times are few and short lived.
Our route across the Gulf ICW is 271-miles from Mobile to Carrabelle, FL. While the official Gulf ICW distance is charted at 218-miles. The
difference of course are the little off the route detours we make along the way.
|It doesn't get any better than this!
|5,429-miles, 140-travel days, averaging 40-miles a day. You can do this!
How's this for Great Loop Map?
Want to know all the fabulous places you can go in your own boat? Want to know how many days "on average" cruising at the
recommended "Looper Speed" (near 8-mph) it will take you to get there? Just count the travel days on the map.
Still, this map alone doesn't cover the half the incredible destinations a few side trips can take you. This map is our 5,429-mile "basic"
voyage around America's Great Loop. It also connects you to another 20,000-plus miles on incredible safe, navigable inland waterways. You
will be amazed at all the destinations you can visit while living-aboard and cruising in your own boat.
Think of it this way. . . Where else, and how else, can someone spend a year traveling so far and so long, and end up with their
"transportation & lodging" expenses averaging out to be less than $55.00 a day? Some Loopers do it for less and some do it for more. How
much it costs you will depend on your choice of boat, and how often to pay to stay in a Marina vs anchor out for free.
For now however, we are going to concentrate on the basic route. It is the most popular 5,429-mile voyage around America's Great Loop.
Simply put. . .
America's Great Loop is truly a magnificent adventure. To call it a journey or even a voyage just doesn't quite seem to do it justice. While it
is a certainly a journey, and by definition, a voyage, it is so much more than a boat ride, words fail miserably at describing it.
Possibly the Greeks, said it best when they first referenced the Seven Natural Wonders of the World in 200 BC, they used the word
"theamata" which translates most closely into English as: "must see, must experience".
For sure, this is a must see, must experience for anyone that dreams of safe travel & adventure.
|As a footnote:
With the purchase of "The Looper's Companion Guide" you get a FREE Kindle
version, as well as access to our online Interactive (Zoom in - Zoom out) Great Loop
Map (shown above) using Google Maps. The Interactive Map allows you to see the
route and when using the 'Satellite" view, you can zoom in so far you can see boats
on the waterway, anchored out, and in the Marinas.
For those with a very shallow draft (3-feet or less) there is a 'Big Bend route' that while it keeps
you close to shore, it is the very longest route to Tarpon Springs.
From Tarpon Springs, you are re-connected with the inside Florida Intracoastal route all the
way to Sanibel Island & Ft. Myers where you will meet the Okeechobee Waterway. You have a
long winter ahead, and we suggest from Tarpon Springs to Ft. Myers everyone should take
their time and visit some of the more incredible sites.
At the southern end of the Florida Gulf ICW near Sanibel Island, we always visit Ft, Myers'
Beach, (shown on the map). This is not Ft. Myers proper, it is the Beach! It is worth at least a
two night stay, and Moss Marine puts you nearest all the great restaurants, shops and action.
From here, you can cruise around to and through the Florida Keys, or you can take the short
cut across the Okeechobee Waterway.
Your official Great Loop route across the Okeechobee Waterway is 154 miles. Our actual
cruising miles from Ft. Myers' Beach to Ft. Pierce is 186-miles. There, a series of 5 locks on this
inland waterway, and the entire voyage is really a no brainer. There is however a 49' bridge
height, so any one with a taller mast than that might want to go around and sail the Keys.
Otherwise, it is mast down. The canal depth is about 8 feet and we have never had a problem
taking the center cross lake route.
The voyage from Roland Martin's Marina to Indiantown is an easy day's run.
From Indiantown, it is 51-miles to Ft. Pierce Marina. This is where we "cross our wake".
Your journey across the Gulf of Mexico from Carrabelle to Anclote Key and Tarpon Springs offers some choices. We take the shortest 'open
water' distance which is 76-mile from Carrabelle to Steinhatchee. However the most popular route is probable the 170-mile crossing from
Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs.