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|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 must have a draft of less than 5 feet. 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 - but we don't recommend it. As
we've run aground (for the first time) several times over the past 2 years with a 4 ft
draft. So we certainly don't recommend more than 5 feet. In fact I can not stress
enough, the shallower your draft, the better. If your plans include cruising the
(optional) Canadian Heritage Canals, your full load draft must be less than 5 feet.
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. So, unless you plan on carrying additional fuel in jerry cans,
your boat's fuel tank(s) capacity must allow you a cruising range of at least 250
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.
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:
While a good used (hard bottom) dinghy might cost you upwards of $600, 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 need some Cruising Guide Books:
On the top of our list of Cruising guides is Skipper Bob. We also have a few Waterway Guides. Our Skipper Bob's however is a constant companion at the helm.
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.
Myth Buster # 1 - "You have to be rich, and the boat required to cruise the
Great Loop is very expensive".
Busted: Neither is true. There are tons of great used, safe, seaworthy and comfortable live
a-board size boats on the market today at extremely affordable prices. Would you believe
$10,000 or less?
Busted: No, you do not have to be rich. It is possible for two people to spend a year
cruising the Great Loop for $15,000 (or less) for fuel, Marinas, boat and boat related
expenses. We know this is true, as my son and I did it together in 2011 for less than $7,000
- just to prove it could be done.
Myth Buster # 2 - "Living on a boat is cheap - or, as some people believe,
Busted: Living on a boat is neither free nor cheap. It can however, be a most envied and
economical lifestyle. If one has a fully paid for vessel (no boat payments) the cost of living on
a boat will compare to that of living in a small economy apartment. It can also be more
expensive then a Penthouse Suite - the choice is yours. We tell you more about it later.
Capt John's "CRUISING ON A FRUGAL BUDGET"
It has to be as a matter of choice - NOT as a result of financial hardship or an impoverished
situation. In order to be a happy boater, cruising on a frugal budget must be a matter of choice, not a matter
of financial hardship or circumstances. It is making a financial decision between spending your money on
yourself, or on your boat. It is a decision for more fun vs more fuel - between paying $50 to dock over-night
at a Marina once a week or paying $350 for 7 nights a week. You can anchor out for free during the week,
and spend the money you save for other things such as eating-out or seeing the sights. The choice is
yours. Cruising on a frugal budget successfully, is the decision to be a happy long-term, long-distance
cruiser, not a short term consumer.
What does it cost?
While we cover the cost of cruising the Great Loop in much more detail later, for now, it is enough to know -
the majority of your costs will all be related to your lifestyle, comfort zone, pocket book, boating philosophy,
and the size of your boat.
Myth Buster # 3 - "Your needs and wants while living on your boat will be
much less and different then living on land."
Busted - This is (for the most part) untrue. 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
comfort zone. We all have our likes and dislikes. And truth is, if you dislike a particular food
or drink on land, you won't like it on your boat either.
Likewise, if there is something you 'must have' at home, you will want it on your boat as
well. "What's in your comfort zone?" Starbucks coffee? Diet Coke? Favorite wine, Internet
access? TV? Ice cream? Movies?
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:
The very moment you select your boat, you predetermine your forever 'boat related' cruising costs. If
you are on a budget, especial a frugal one, I can not emphasize this enough. Even with a fully paid for boat,
your boat selection is absolutely critical to your cost of cruising.
For example: One Looper we know spent $42,000 in 2015 for fuel alone, that same amount of
money would fuel my boat for 3 trips around the Loop and give me $21,000 to spend on shore
excursions. So, you see? It's more about your own lifestyle, philosophy, and pocketbook. While we
cover much more on finance later, the bottom line is - if you want to be a frugal voyager you have to
have a frugal boat.
What else will you need?
Obviously, you will need time off work.
"Loopers" can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to complete the Loop. If you cruise 5 days a
week, and take no lengthly side-trips, and no lay-overs due to weather or mechanical failures, it
would take you a diligent 22 weeks to complete the Loop. This is why it is best to plan at least 26
weeks (6 months) for your journey.
By far, most Loopers take an entire year and cruise each area of the Loop by its preferred boating
season. This gives you plenty of time for detours, side trips, and sightseeing. This is what we do,
and suggest (if you possibly can) that you do as well. It is certainly the most relaxing and enjoyable
way to experience the Great Loop.
Keep in mind, regardless of how fast your boat is, your "average per day cruising distance" will
normally be only about 50 miles a day, (we'll explain why, later) so even on a "quick" trip in a fast
boat, it will normally take you 150 or more actual cruising days to complete the Great Loop.
|On this page, we are going to go through a very short list of some of the more important things you will need. Then, we are going
to equip and provision 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 Loop.
|For more "Scoop on the Loop" - continued . . . click NEXT
| All navigational charts are the responsibility of NOAA. Yes, they get lots of help from both the USCG
(Coast Guard) and the Army Corp of Engineers, but NOAA is the single source responsible for the
publication of all navigational charts both digital and paper. They recently announced they are no longer
printing paper charts.
Paper charts have (for a long time now) been as out dated as the hard wired telephone. I have
not used them in 20 years. The USCG (finally) recently announced that Paper Charts were no
longer required for us on commercial vessels.
So... Instead or paper charts, you can backup your GPS and battery power (in case of either
equipment or electrical failure). Electronic charts are updated on a continual basis - that's why
everyone prefers them. Furthermore, you can back up your navigational GPS and charts on your
laptop, notebook, even your smart phone.
You need a GPS navigational system:
I use a mid-priced Lowrance GPS system for navigation. 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. (Columbus would have loved this!)
"Bring Your Own Boat"
and take the voyage of a lifetime
America's Great Loop
|Getting ready for your Great Loop adventure
|:: Preparing for your cruise ::